Justice Dept Launches Regional Gun Trafficking Strike Forces
U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announces indictments in a multi-county firearm manufacturing and trafficking case on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif.
Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced the launch of “five cross-jurisdictional strike forces” intended to reduce gun violence and disrupt firearms unlawfully trafficked into what the agency described as “key regions of the country.”

The strike force regions include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco/Sacramento area, and Washington, D.C. According to the DOJ, the strike forces will be led by U.S. Attorneys “who will collaborate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and with state and local law enforcement partners within their own jurisdiction (where firearms are used in crimes) as well as law enforcement partners in areas where illegally trafficked guns originate.”

“All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a statement issued on Thursday. “We are redoubling our efforts as ATF works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes. These strike forces enable sustained coordination across multiple jurisdictions to help disrupt the worst gun trafficking corridors.”

The move comes as cities across the country have experienced a summer surge in gun violence. Earlier this month, New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency to increase law enforcement in areas where shootings are on the rise.

The strike forces are part of the DOJ’s Comprehensive Violent Crime Reduction Strategy, which was announced in May. It requires U.S. Attorneys’ offices to work with federal, state, and local law enforcement “to address significant drivers of violence in their districts,” such as gun traffickers who provide weapons to individuals who commit violent offenses.

According to CBS News, “ATF is also embedding agents or task force officers with more than 45 local homicide units to coordinate efforts to curb violent crime, a Justice Department official told reporters.”

“We all know that our job is to go after those that pull the trigger and end up critically injuring and in some cases murdering innocent people,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “But our job is also of course to go after the sources of those guns, the corridors that they travel in and the networks that feed those guns to the places where they are doing the most violent crime.”

More details from The Associated Press:

There is no federal gun trafficking law, so federal agents often must rely on other statutes, like lying on a firearms purchase form, to prosecute gun trafficking cases or stop straw purchasers, people who buy weapons legally to then provide them to others who can’t legally have them.

Officials hope the new plan will mean federal prosecutors in some of the supply cities will be more likely to bring charges in those cases.

After Attorney General Garland announced the formation of the strike forces Thursday in Washington, D.C., he traveled to Chicago to meet with Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, police, and community leaders. As The Daily Wire reported, Chicago had experienced three mass shootings over the course of six hours on Wednesday.

According to the AP, residents of some predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods in Chicago are concerned the new task forces will result in more police in their communities.

The DOJ cited gun trace data that found “a significant number” of firearms recovered in Chicago are illegally trafficked into the city.

“Straw purchasers and unlicensed gun sellers enable violence,” said John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who will oversee the task force in Chicago. “This cross-jurisdictional strike force will increase collaboration with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and enhance our longstanding efforts to hold accountable individuals or groups who illegally traffic firearms into Chicago.”

Related: Chicago Violence: Three Mass Shootings In Six Hours Leave At Least 1 Dead, 28 Wounded

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